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HD webcam reviews

The world wide web is your stage with these eight high definition webcams.
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01.Introduction

webcam_LEAD_WEB

Our review of eight high definition webcams, ranging from $40 to $110, reveals that one of the cheapest models tested is the best overall performer.

On this page we look at:

There’s an unquenchable desire for online video content. More than two full days' worth of footage is added to YouTube every minute of every day, and more than three billion people login to the site each day. Whether it’s a blog or a video of your cat, there’s a huge audience out there waiting to watch your videos.

For more information about Home office equipment, see Computers and online.

High definition

While many computers now come with a web camera, or webcam, integrated into the frame of the monitor, it generally offers a lower quality than what you can get from a standalone device. What’s more, the latest webcams can now support high definition video, recording in both 720p and 1080p resolutions.

The benefits of high definition are obvious. Higher quality video, with plenty of definition and clarity make the viewing experience much more enjoyable. For all intents and purposes though, the benefits of 1080p over 720p are negligible for webcams, thanks to small image sensors and relatively cheap lenses.

  • While we tested the 1080p functionality of the compatible webcams, the 1080p performance wasn’t taken into account in the final scores.
  • Processing high definition video requires some grunt in your computer hardware, especially for 1080p. So while all the webcams on test have minimum specifications for basic use, the specs required for HD recording are a little bit higher.
  • If you’re serious about recording high definition video, making sure your computer is up to the job is your first task.
  • And while most HD webcams come with some basic software that allows you to record and edit high definition video, none of the programs supplied are truly up to the task of detailed video editing, although a quick Google search will show there are plenty of third party solutions available. For our testing, we used the software that was provided.

Video conferencing

It’s not just video sharing applications like YouTube that can take advantage of a high definition webcam. Applications like Skype or Windows Live Messenger, which allow people to video conference anywhere in the world for free, can also take advantage of the superior audio and video quality inside standalone HD webcams.

Now that ISPs are introducing broadband plans with higher speeds and data allowances all the time, high definition video conferencing is the way of the future. The Australian government is even hinging its message for the National Broadband Network around the idea of HD video conferencing for telecommuting, telemedicine and education .

It’s important to note that in many cases, free video conferencing software only has limited high definition support. But even for services that don’t support HD at all, the superior lens and sensors on HD webcams will still generally offer an improvement in image quality, as we found when testing with the standard settings while making Skype calls.

Brands and models tested

  • Creative Live!Cam Socialize HD 1080
  • Creative Live!Cam Socialize HD AF
  • Creative Live!Cam Chat HD
  • Genius FaceCam 2025R
  • Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910
  • Logitech HD Webcam C510
  • Logitech HD Webcam C270
  • Microsoft LifeCam Studio

How we test

All webcams are tested using the same Core i7 Acer Travelmate PC in the same location on the same day to be as consistent as possible with lighting conditions and computer performance. Overall performance is rated on a both performance and ease of use.

Performance: Measuring the tilt and rotation angles of the webcam and the stability of the attachment to the computer screen. Analysing the number of frames per second (FPS) and the bitrate (in Mbit/s) recorded in a short video at 720p resolution. Comparing the colour on a captured still to a basic colour wheel printout. Testing video and audio delay in a video conference situation using Skype, and testing the audio quality of a recorded video. Because only two webcams included the ability to record at 1080p, this wasn’t factored into the overall performance scores.

Ease of use: Testing how easy it is to attach to the computer screen, how easy it is to take a still image and a video, how simple it is to share videos via email or social networking sites, and checking how difficult it is to set up security features like motion detection. In each case, the included (or recommended) software was used to test the camera’s performance, although there are plenty of webcam software alternatives.

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